Holidays: Expectation vs. Reality

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The arrival of autumn means the holiday season is not far behind. For some, that thought brings about all kinds of excited feelings like Will Ferrell in Elf excited for Santa. You’ve got a countdown going, have all of your fall decorations up and are anxiously waiting for the acceptable date to switch it out for your Christmas decor. You’ve already been Christmas shopping and can’t wait for Black Friday to finish your list and wrap all those goodies.

For those of us (ahem, Kate) with perfectionist tendencies, the holidays bring about a whole other slew of feelings: stress and anxiety to name a few and the to do lists start cranking out. For everything to go perfectly, I’ve got a lot of work to do. But, inevitably, no matter how much prep work I do, the expectation never quite matches the reality.

The Thanksgiving dinner you lovingly prepared and envisioned your children loving is instantly rejected. How dare you put these new foods in front of them? Sweet potato casserole; more like a big pan of orange mush.
You imagine how excited they’ll be (kids and husband) to see the matching outfits you’ve gotten a deal on and how much they’ll love capturing the memory together. Instead, no matter how much you bribe them, they aren’t having it. Only 2/5 people are looking at the camera and at least one person is crying.
You turn on Christmas music, make the hot cocoa, get out the decorations and look forward to everyone working together to decorate your beautiful tree. Unfortunately, kid one doesn’t like how kid two is clumping the ornaments all in one spot and kid three thinks it would be fun to get under the tree and down it goes.

No matter if you’re the mom who just LOVES the holidays or if you struggle with anxiety about it all, we all want it to be a sweet time that we can treasure for years to come. And no matter how much we prep, the perfect expectation we have will never quite match the reality. The truth is that we aren’t perfect, don’t live in a perfect world and don’t have perfect families but if we can put aside the goal of perfection and stop and realize all that we have, I think we’ll find that it’s actually pretty perfect. To have a family together, to have food to eat, to be able to enjoy time with each other, that is what makes the holidays so good. It may not result in instagram perfect pictures but will be remembered perfectly in your heart.

Here are some practical ways to help set your expectations for the holidays:

1. DECIDE WHAT REALLY MATTERS TO YOU

Do you really want one great family pic or to make your famous pecan pie or to have everyone sit around during the Thanksgiving meal and share what they’re thankful for? Choose what really matters to you.

2. GAME PLAN WITH YOUR FAMILY

Sit down with your spouse and kids before the event and tell them what matters to you. This might be a great time to hear what also really matters to each family member during the holidays. When we communicate our expectations, it helps create a win for everyone.

3. DECIDE WHAT YOU CAN LET GO

Are there things that you have set up in your mind as musts that you can transition into the “that would be cool but it’s no biggie if it doesn’t work out” pile? Make a list, mental or physical of what you can let go.

If Autumn serves as a reminder to us that the holiday season is coming, what if, as the golden and crimson leaves fall from the trees, it could also remind us how beautiful it is to let things go.

I hope you have a holiday season filled with beautiful, perfectly imperfect moments and that you realize the joy and peace available when you let things go.

Love, Kate

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